PV International Desk : Indians crowded grocery stores and chemists on Wednesday in a struggle for essential items after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a total lockdown for three weeks to fight a coronavirus pandemic, one of the toughest such measures worldwide.

India’s tally of 536 cases and 10 deaths is dwarfed by China, Italy and Spain, but Modi and health experts have warned that the nation of 1.3 billion people faces a tidal wave of infections if harsh steps are not taken.

People in the key cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru rushed to stock up after Modi decreed the shutdown in a speech televised nationwide, barely four hours before it took effect.

As states shut their borders, long queues of trucks carrying milk, fruits and vegetables snaked down highways, even though Modi said essential services would be maintained countrywide.

“There are no clear instructions, police are telling us to close down the shop,” said Ram Agarwal, a grocer in Delhi swamped by people looking to buy dry food supplies and milk.